Afro-American Folksongs - online book

A Study In Racial And National Music, With Sample Sheet Music & Lyrics.

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ImprovizationSolo and Choral RefrainExamples
from AfricaStrange Funeral CustomsTheir
Savage PrototypesMessages to the Dead
Graveyard Songs of the American
The general structure of the simpler (and therefore older) American songs shows a stanza containing an al­ternating solo verse and refrain, with sometimes a chorus. "The most common arrangement," say the editors of "Slave Songs," in their directions for singing, "gives the second and fourth lines to the refrain and the first and third to the verse; and in this case the third line may be a repetition of the first or may have different words. Often, however, the refrain occupies only one line, the verse occupying the other three, while in one or two songs the verse is only one line, while the refrain is three lines in length. The refrain is repeated with each stanza; the words of the verse are changed at the pleasure of the leader, or fugleman, who sings either well-known words, or, if he is gifted that way, invents verses as the song goes on. In addition to the stanza, some of the songs have a chorus, which usually consists of a fixed set of words, though in some of the songs the chorus is a good deal varied. The refrain of the main stanza often appears in the chorus."
There is nothing peculiar to these American folksongs in this recurrent refrain, but it is worth noticing that the feature in the form of an alternating line of improvization and a reiterated burden is found throughout Africa. "Their style is the recitative broken by a full chorus," says Sir Richard Burton, speaking of the people of the lake region
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